Capital of north China’s Hebei province Shijiazhuang kicked off mass nucleic acid tests for its residents on Jan. 6, after locally transmitted confirmed COVID-19 cases were recently reported.
Within three days, the city tested over 10.25 million residents in all its counties and districts, and 354 were tested positive.
Shijiazhuang started a second round of citywide testing Tuesday and vowed to finish it within two days.
At present, the testing is proceeding at full speed. It only takes less than 20 seconds to record residents’ personal information thanks to a smart app adopted to help medical workers improve efficiency. With the app, all the residents need to do is to show their ID cards in front of a camera.
At the critical moment, members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and cadres are rushing to the forefront in the battle against the COVID-19.
At 23:00 on Jan. 5, messages were sent to a chat group of the Zhouzhuang township committee of the CPC in Jinzhou, a county-level city administered by Shijiazhuang, requesting all members to report for work immediately.
Seven hours later, Zhouzhuang township started preparing nucleic acid testing covering all residents, and the Zhouzhuang township committee of the CPC mobilized all cadres to join the efforts. They were dispatched to the front line of the arduous task, in an effort to ensure that all the residents of the township could be tested within the specified time period and that the whereabouts of the township’s all permanent residents be collected.
At 4 a.m. on Jan. 6, cadres of the township government were dispatched to villages to help medical workers prepare for the testing. One and a half hours later, loudspeakers of the villages started broadcasting the testing information as village cadres visited door to door to inform the villagers. The testing officially started at 6 a.m.
The mass testing was joined by more than 30 teams of community workers, more than 20,000 community workers and over 40,000 volunteers in the city.
“At 2 a.m. on Jan. 5, the head nurse of my department told me over the phone that our hospital was going to send a team to Gaocheng district to collect throat swab samples, and I asked her to count me in,” recalled Wang Na, deputy head nurse of the No. 3 Neurology Department of Hebei General Hospital.
The team of 30 departed for Gaocheng at 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 5. After arriving at Chenglizhuang village in the district, Wang put on protective gear and paired up with one of her colleagues, and then started to collect throat swab samples from door to door.
The next morning, Wang and her colleagues visited another village Wujie, despite the chilly temperature that hit minus 15 degrees Celsius, and collected throat swab samples for about 900 residents in five hours. Without a break, they went on to the houses of villagers who were ill in bed and had difficulty moving for collecting samples.
“We are racing against the virus. Sometimes we are too busy to eat or drink,” Wang said.
At 4 a.m. on Jan. 7, a large air-inflated nucleic acid test laboratory named Huoyan, or Fire Eye, was put into use in an indoor tennis court of a sports stadium in Shijiazhuang. The construction of the lab took only 21 hours.
“The lab can test up to 1 million samples per day and deliver test result of a sample in as soon as four hours,” said Du Yutao, chief of the Fire Eye lab and an executive of BGI Group, a Shenzhen-based biotech company.
Shijiazhuang has sent a total of 328 epidemiological investigation teams to communities across the city, including the 164 that were established recently.
As of Jan. 9, all the medical institutions and centers for disease control and prevention above Grade 2 in the city had established nucleic acid test labs, and 107 were capable of performing COVID-19 tests.
Hebei isn’t fighting the resurgence alone. East China’s Jiangsu and Zhejiang dispatched five testing teams totaling 209 members to the northern province, with each carrying five sets of testing equipment and 50,000 testing kits. Besides, support teams from Guangdong, Hunan, and Jiangxi are also on the road to Hebei.
“Let the seniors, children, and patients go first so that they won’t have to wait in the cold,” said a resident in a WeChat group of a community in Shijiazhuang before the residents there were about to have their throat swabs sampled on the afternoon of Jan. 6. The message sent by a resident to a WeChat chat group of a community in Shijiazhuang on the afternoon of Jan. 6 was echoed by many neighbors, who replied immediately by saying things like “they ought to enjoy priority,” “I agree,” “medical workers have braved the cold to serve us, we should try our best to cooperate,” and “call me at any time if you need help with the elderly or children in your family”.
On Jan. 9, a restaurant in the city, which suspended business due to the COVID-19 resurgence, sent freshly cooked dumplings to medical workers at Penghou neighborhood of Qiaoxi district, Shijiazhuang.
“We must thank the medical workers from Zhejiang province for coming all the way to help us,” said Tian Yongqing, an executive of the restaurant.
Shijiazhuang volunteer service federation has received applications of 25,000 people since it started to recruit community volunteers on Jan. 6 for the mass COVID-19 testing.
“We are uniting as one to strive for an early win,” said a citizen surnamed Cao.